Refurbished Tech For Christmas Gifts? What to Know Before You Buy

Whether you're a fan of electronic gadgets or just a fan of saving money, ads for refurbished products may speak to you this holiday season.

Computers, smartphones, TV's for less -- like-new, sellers say, but decidedly not-new prices.

"When you're doing your holiday shopping you can get even better than a black Friday deal and a product that is just as good," said Abraham Scarr, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group.

Just as good for less money?

A new report from IPIRG says-- yes. Believe it.

"You should expect to save 15 to 20 percent," Scarr said.

Pirg recognizes that with the word "refurbished" -- comes reservations.

"There's a little bit of uncertainty that comes along with buying a refurbished product," Scarr said.

The trick: they say, grilling the seller. Confirming the product is not simply cleaned up, repackaged, and re-priced.

"Dig in with the seller ... get the details ... what is the process they've gone through to make sure the product is ready for resale," Scarr said.

The landscape is riddled with vague terms--such as "like new" or "open-box."

"One of the confusing parts is there's no standard definition for any of these terms," Scarr said.

And no standard terminology adopted by even the major tech companies.

Samsung uses "certified pre-owned" and its gadgets come with a 12-month warranty, just like new.

Verizon also uses "certified pre-owned."

But Apple adopted "certified refurbished."

At least they certify.

Online, thousands of private sellers offer products they claim to have refurbished. Great prices, but at great risk, with no warranty.

Which is why PIRG recommends buying refurbished products direct from the original manufacturers.

"Mostly that gives you more protection on the back end, typically," Scarrsaid. "They're going to have an extended warranty."

Should you buy with credit card and add that layer of guarantee? Turns out credit card companies often won't back you up on refurbished products unless they come with original warranty.

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